Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

In 2017 we saw a rather dominant Chris Froome win by ‘only’ 54 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran with Romain Bardet edging Landa by one second to round out the GC podium.

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I say ‘only’ above as it was actually Froome’s smallest winning margin in all 4 of his victories so far, but he never looked in that much trouble throughout the three weeks. Obviously it was a measured effort so that he could go on to win the Vuelta later in the year, then the Giro this year. Can he make it an incredible 5th Tour win and 4th GT win in a row?

No fancy business here because as I’ll be doing daily stage previews I’m just ducking any route analysis here and just jumping straight into the favourites. I would recommend this preview from Road.cc though as they cover each stage in concise paragraphs. Much better than my ramblings!

I’m also going to be blunt with some riders as I don’t really rate their overall chances. Also you’ll have read many previews by now and if I’m honest, I can’t really bothered to rehash what others have said.

Anyway, onto the contenders and pretenders…

The Favourite 

Chris Froome.

Despite what your opinion is (I’m sure you all know mine by now) on the whole salbutamol case, the bottom line is that Froome is cleared and is here to race. Nothing like a bit of pre-Tour drama though with ASO apparently going to ban him before UCI/WADA announcing the following day that his case was dropped. More drama than Love Island!

At the Giro Froome was seemingly way off the pace but two remarkable days on the bike, Zoncolan and Stage 19, saw him claw back an almost 3 minute deficit to Dumoulin with some more left in the bag. With an extra week between the Giro and Tour, he should have recovered reasonably well. His team is super strong, as you would expect, and he will have a lot of support on the flat and in the mountains. It will be interesting to see how he can handle the cobbled stage – it will certainly bring back bad memories from crashing out in 2014. No doubt he starts as the favourite and will gain time in the efforts against the clock but can we really expect a rider to win four Grand Tours in a row? I hope not, for the sake of the sport.

The Waiting for Froome to falter-ers

Richie Porte.

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Can Richie survive a Grand Tour without a bad day? That is the million dollar question. If he does, then he will play a massive role in the outcome of this race. Arguably the best rider on a 15 minute climb in the World, he will hope to display some of that trademark out of the saddle “sprint-climbing” in this race. At the Tour de Suisse he was strong and took home that race but I get the sense that he still wasn’t at 100%, there is still room for improvement from him. Compared to what he has been used to in the past couple of seasons this looks like his strongest BMC support team. They have all terrain covered to shepherd Porte around France and he should be able to rely on Van Garderen and Caruso deep into many of the mountain days. I started off this season thinking that Porte would win the race and although my mind has been slightly changed, he still starts as one to beat if he stays on his bike.

Romain Bardet. 

The AG2R man has finished on the podium the past two years and will be hoping for a similar result this year, if not better. A third in the recent Dauphiné was a good and highlights that his form is heading in the right direction but that he has not peaked too soon. In last year’s edition of the race I loved the way AG2R attacked Sky in the mountains and they bring an even stronger squad with them this time out. He shouldn’t lose a crazy amount of time in the TTT as a result but I do have a slight worry for him on the cobbled stage. Then again, who of the GC contenders will truly be comfortable then? A big day is needed from Naesen! In the mountains he (alongside Porte) is one of the few riders I am confident can actually challenge Froome. With a few stages ending in descents from climbs, he will be in his element and certainly put pressure on the other GC contenders.

Nairo Quintana.

Is the Colombian back to his climbing best? It looks like it after his strong showing in the Tour de Suisse and he was particularly impressive holding off the group of GC contenders on the shallow drag before the final steeper ramps of Arosa. He forms a very strong attacking trident with Valverde and Landa and I’m really looking forward to see how they approach the race. I just hope that at least two of them are in contention after the cobbled stage. We saw in 2015 just how strong Nairo can be in the final week of the race in the high mountains and the rest of his challengers will be concerned if he is within 2 minutes going into the closing stages. No doubt we’ll certainly see some enthusiastic Colombian fans at the side of the road!

The Podium Outsiders

Right, shorter musings from now on.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Winner of the Tour when the race last visited the cobbles, the Bahrain rider has had a pretty average year so far. However, he knows how to peak for a race and he can never be discounted. With a strong team to support him, we will probably see him on the attack as he will no doubt have to claw some time back after the TTT.

Rigoberto Uran.

A surprising second place last year, I think it will be hard for the Colombian to repeat the feat this time around. He found some race sharpness in Slovenia recently but I just don’t think he has enough to do it. Then again, no one really mentioned him last year and look what happened.

Alejandro Valverde.

Mr Evergreen, Valverde has been incredibly strong this season so far, having won the GC of every stage race he has competed in. It was scary how easy things were for him in the recent La Route d’Occitanie, using the attacks of Elissonde and Navarro as training – deliberately letting gaps grow so he could close them down. He’s another that will probably be chasing time after the TTT but I look forward to his venture onto the cobbles – he didn’t do too badly in Dwars this year.

Adam Yates. 

Have Mitchelton learnt from his brother’s epic collapse at the Giro? In strong form after his second in the Dauphine (the gap to Porte would have only be a handful of seconds if it was not for the TTT), he will be able to rely on a well-rounded squad focussed solely on him. Can he handle the pressure?

Jakob Fuglsang.

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If there was ever a year when Fuglsang could seriously challenge for a podium spot then this would be it. He has a solid team built around him that should be able to support him on most terrain. Back in 2014 he was the one doing the majority of the work when Nibali gained a load of time on the cobbles so no doubt he’ll be licking his lips at that stage. We saw in the Tour de Suisse that he was stronger than Porte on the last day of climbing and he followed that up with a blistering TT. Has he managed to hold form?

Top 10 Fillers

Ilnur Zakarin.

The Katusha man is one of those riders that could really fall into a couple of categories in this preview. I fear he’ll lose some time in the TT and given his poor bike handling the cobbles will be an issue too. However, we saw in the Vuelta last year that he was one of the best climbers in the last week. It all depends on the opening 9 days though.

Geraint Thomas.

Team Sky Plan B but when has a Team Sky Plan B ever actually won a race? I certainly can’t recall a time. Needs Froome to drop out within the opening 9 days for him to get a dedicated team around him. Will he wait for his captain on the cobbles as theoretically he should be one of the strongest GC riders. It will be interesting to see how it plays out within the team.

Bob Jungels.

I rate him as a rider but I feel he’s just going to be a “he’s there” kind of rider this Tour. Top 10 would be a good result.

Daniel Martin.

Terrible team means he will lose a lot of time in the TTT and he will lose a lot of time on the cobbles too. Stage hunting later in the race would be a good idea if he just doesn’t want to ride for a top 10.

Steven Kruijswijk.

See Jungels.

Bauke Mollema.

See Kruijswijk.

The Pretenders

Riders that won’t top 10 despite a lot of people thinking they will. Ready to eat my hat here.

Primoz Roglic.

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He seems to be everyone’s favourite wildcard for the race but I just can’t see it. Having won both Itzulia and Romandie he then returned to racing recently and took the crown at his home tour. Unproven and untested, I think he will once again go for stage wins and focus on contending for the GC in a GT next year.

Tom Dumoulin.

The Sunweb rider has never done two GTs back to back while going for GC. After the brutally tough Giro I think he will fall short here and instead focus on going for some stage wins. The way that Sunweb approached this race to me seemed that Kelderman was going to be their GC candidate with Dumoulin acting as a decoy to deflect attention but unfortunately Kelderman crashed and can’t take the start.

Mikel Landa.

The boldest of the three riders listed here, I just can’t get behind the Landa train. I think something will go wrong for him on one of the days and with the two more established Movistar riders possibly getting a little extra support, Landa will lose his hopes on the cobbles. If he is in contact though I would love to see Rogue Landa again.

Egan Bernal.

Exceptional talent but he’ll fall into line, a.k.a behind Thomas and Poels. We might see something similar to Moscon at the Vuelta where he is exceptional for a while but due to his age he won’t be consistent.

Prediction

Probably Froome, innit.

But after resigning myself to that fate at the Giro I’m going to predict a more fairytale result here and go with Bardet to take home the first French win in a long time.

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Allez Romain!

Betting

Three pre-Tour bets for me, all that I’ve tweeted out over the past couple of weeks.

2pts EW Bardet @ 18/1 for GC (he’s actually out to 20/1 with Betfair Sportsbook but I would take the 16/1 widely available elswhere)

1.5pt Valverde Top 3 at 7/1 (available at Bet365 and Will Hill)

1pt EW Demare Points Classification at 20/1 (with Coral/Lads)

I had set aside 10pts for outright market bets but this is not the year to bet on KOM pre race but I might fancy something during the race.

Let’s just hope for a better Tour than Giro punting wise, I’ll be sticking to my favourite rule: 2pts a day keeps the debt collector away!

Thanks for reading as always and hope you enjoyed the preview. Who do you think will go on to win the race overall? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Venaria Reale -> Bardonecchia

Today’s Recap

The Giro is the Giro.

In typical fashion we had a break made up mainly of rouleurs that was allowed to go and contest the stage win. I honestly have no idea what the teams who chased so fervently yesterday were doing today allowing a break get away today that had only a handful of climbers in it.

And after me backing him for yesterday’s stage Schachmann went on to win today. Sums this race up perfectly really!

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I will admit that it is quite nice that Morkov and Schachmann who are roomies, planned this move yesterday evening.

Plaza was second with Cattaneo in third.

It looked as if it was going to be a dull GC day but a series of attacks ultimately led to Yates having a mini-crisis, from which he lost 28 seconds to Dumoulin, Pozzovivo and Froome. Consequently it means that he is only the same margin ahead of the Sunweb rider going into a very tough double-header. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Arguably the hardest stage at the Giro, the riders will face 5000m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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Climbing from the gun, albeit gently to start off with, the riders will summit the Colle del Lys after 48km of racing. Plenty of time for riders to be shelled out the back if there is a big fight to get into the breakaway.

A long descent and a good portion of valley roads follows before this year’s Cima Coppi: the Colle delle Finestre.

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45 hairpins over 18.5km and a climb that averages roughly 9%. I suppose the riders can take some solace in the fact that at least it is steady…Oh, the second half of it is also on gravel roads. Just to add to the excitement.

Another quick and technical descent follows before the drag up to the ski station of Sestrière. However, it will be the easier ascent the will tackle this year so it shouldn’t amount to much.

It will be then over to the final climb to decide the day.

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It’s a tough one too as the Jaffereau averaging 9% for 7.2kms. With some of the steepest sections coming right at the end, it is perfect for an explosive lightweight climber. But after what they will have had to face before then, it might just be a case of who has anything left in the tank.

How will the stage pan out?

If Yates didn’t show any sign of weakness today then there would have been a chance that the break sticks all the way tomorrow. It still has a chance but given how aggressively I expect the other GC teams to race it now then you will need to be a very good climber to possibly hold on.

If I was Mitchelton I would play a very ballsy and risky game tomorrow. Everyone expects the likes of Sky, Sunweb and Bahrain to get a guy into the morning move to act as a bridge for their GC contender later on. So in that situation Mitchelton should just let the break get so far ahead that the rider up the road is redundant. Of course, this plan backfires a bit if lets say someone like Poels slips away.

Will we see any long-range attacks on the Finestre? I think that is a possibility but a rider will need a lot of team support ahead of them because there are still 70kms to the finish after that.

Of course, it is not just the ascents where attacks can be made and the technical descents may be just as pivotal tomorrow, especially if we get some of the rain that is forecast.

There is a good chance that things get brought back together and we have a very select group fight it out on the final climb, as the long valley roads in between the ascents might put an end to any rangey solo attacks.

Before today’s GC shake up I would have had this as a breakaway day in a 60:40 split, because of those valley roads. But after Yates’ few cracks appearing today, then I’ll reverse that and suggest it will be a GC rider who will take the win. Although I’m not completely discounting the break because it could still stick in the right situation.

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

Has he peaked perfectly for the final week? He certainly looked strong today but the final climb suited him very well. Tomorrow will be a big test for one of the heavier GC contenders but he seems to be in good form at the moment. With the gap down to just 28 seconds now, he will feel within touching distance of Yates, so he might not take as many risks as he would have done otherwise tomorrow.

Chris Froome.

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What’s the next best stage to win after Zoncoloan, probably the day with the Cima Coppi in it. Both Froome and Poels seem to be growing into this race which might worry their rivals but the Sky rider is probably too far back on GC to take the win. This is the Giro though, so who knows. He was attacking today and I think we might try to see a gutsy move from him on the Finestre tomorrow. The steep finishing climb will suit his washing machine cadence, that’s for sure.

Simon Yates.

Just a bad day, or something worse? He says that he should be fine tomorrow but will he really be. There’s only one way to find out and I’m sure we’ll all find out at the same time as he does tomorrow. I think he could bounce back, but he needs to not show any weakness until the final climb. It will be a big day for him and his team and unless he finds that flying form he had in the opening two weeks, it won’t be a stage win for him.

Domenico Pozzovivo.

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The Bahrain man has done a fantastic ride so far this Giro and finds himself currently sitting on the podium. He and his team will be very concerned with a reinvigorated Froome though but the Italian did seem to follow the Sky rider’s attack today with some ease. There has been a lot of talk throughout this Giro about his lack of support in the mountains after Siuitsou crashed before the race began. Will that show itself tommorrow?

Miguel Angel Lopez.

One of today’s stronger performers, the current young jersey holder produced an impressive climbing display on the one and only hill. He caught up to Poels in what seemed like no time, although it is hard to tell if he was waiting up for Froome a bit. Nonetheless, the Colombian seems to be really growing into the race and with the alititude involved tomorrow, he will be at home.

That’s it, all of the other GC top 20 have no chance of winning the stage.

Reichenbach Returns

After today’s calamitous affair I want to re-highlight Reichenbach again for tomorrow’s stage, because yaknow, Schachmann won the day after I had mentioned him so here’s hoping it is the same with Sebastien.

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I pointed out on Twitter that during the final slopes today he seemed to be the one setting tempo for Pinot bit considering we had a few attacks he wasn’t going full gas and I assumed that’s because Pinot was cooked. They were hoping to bluff it but as soon as the big guys came out to play the FDJ leader went backwards. Reichenbach stuck with him the whole climb but I just can’t see a way back for Pinot now. He is only going to go backwards. He and the team should reward his loyal domestique with some freedom to chase the stage win tomorrow.

Reichenbach is part of only a handful of guys who might win the day if it is not a GC contender, with the others being Aru, Ciccone and Woods.

Prediction

An Astana hail-mary, with all in for Lopez and we’ll see Superman fly!

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He is in great shape but also has the advantage of being far enough behind not to be an immediate threat.

Betting

Feck it, balls to the wall time.

2pts WIN Lopez @ 11/4 

1pt WIN Reichenbach @ 50/1

Plus 1pt on this treble…

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The 6pts on Bennett to beat Carapaz at 11/8.

I think tomorrow suits the Jumbo rider a lot more and Carapaz might lack the experience of going deep into a Grand Tour as a GC rider.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Abbiategrasso -> Prato Nevoso

Today’s Recap

The Giro happened, that’s what went on today.

After a fairly big group of riders managed to establish itself off the head of the peloton, Bora kept it on a bit of a leash hoping to hold it together for a sprint with Bennett. However, the gap kept extending until UAE decided to help as they had missed the move and it was consequently brought back together. This all happened in the first 30km by the way.

Another large group managed to escape again but this time the two big sprint teams were represented. Well, who would chase behind? A combination of a few teams that had missed the break such as Katusha and Trek but also some of the GC teams saw an end to the move because 16th placed Formolo was there. That move was brought back.

I then went out for an hour as I had a dentist appointment, hoping to arrive back to a calmed down day. Hahaha, how wrong was I. Once home I see an escape of 4 up the road that included Poels, LLS, De Marchi and Hermans, which I suppose could be called the break of the day.

They were never given much leeway though as some sprint teams contributed to the chase.

In a hectic and rain-soaked final kilometre it was Quick Step who came out the strongest, delivering Viviani the perfect lead-out and the Italian duly delivered.

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Bennett was the fastest finisher but could only manage second in the end, after he lost some positions in the closing kilometre and started from too far back. Bonifazio got up well for second and given the treacherous conditions, he wasn’t actually that much of a danger to his opponents for once.

The whole stage was just bonkers though and with an average speed of 46.51km/h today, there will be some sore legs tomorrow. Good thing it’s not a mountain top finish, oh, wait…

The Route

Flat, little hill, more flat, BIG HILL.

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I’ll not beat about the bush here, this is all about the final climb to Prato Nevoso.

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It’s not the toughest climb the riders will face at an average of just 6.9% for 13.9km but given that it is the only real ascent of the day then we could see a few rider’s legs respond oddly, especially after today.

However, with the second-half of the climb “only” averaging 6.6% it is hard to believe that there will be big GC gaps but with this being the third week of a GT and given how crazy this Giro has been so far, there might just be.

How will the stage pan out?

It is an easy day for the GC teams to control if they want to set up a showdown on the final climb. The one issue with that is just how unflappable our current Maglia Rosa looks and how perfect the final climb is for him. If they try to keep it together then there is a very real chance that Yates just sprints for the win and extends his lead even more.

I think the outcome of the day relies on the approach of Sky and Mitchelton. The former will sniff the podium and potentially more, so they might want to hold things together for a Froome attack on the final slopes. We saw just how lively they were today. The latter know they have the best climber here and he could get another famous stage win while in Pink but they don’t need to do that. He and the team just need to ride a defensive race, something which they haven’t done at all so far and that has me a bit worried they might try something tomorrow. Surely not though, as the following two stages will see their squad put under a whole lot of pressure and they will need as relaxing a day as possible.

If the morning break goes and features riders from UAE, Astana and Sky that are no threat to the overall, then I see it going all the way. They will struggle to get a stage win otherwise and if they are going to attempt a raid on Friday/Saturday, need the majority of their firepower fresh for then.

Could this finally be the stage where a breakaway sticks? A day that on paper looks like one which could be controlled easily for a GC showdown. Would be typical of this Giro.

Time to play everyone’s most hated game (I imagine by now anyway)…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Contenders

It will be interesting to see the aspirations of some riders tomorrow. The finish would be ideal for someone like Ciccone or Aru, but will they save themselves for a day with more mountain points on offer or a more prestigious set of mountains. I think so…

Jan Hirt.

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Astana have been on the offensive the past few days and seem really keen for a stage win. There is a chance Miguel Angel Lopez could take the day if they keep things together but with a strong Yates then their best chance lies in the break. After his barnstorming appearance at this race in 2017, Hirt has been quiet so far this year, working ably to help support his leaders. Last year we saw how strong he was in the final week and if he arrives at the foot of the climb with a few minutes advantage over the peloton then they won’t be able to catch him.

Sebastien Reichenbach.

Super impressive in helping Pinot on both the Zoncolan and Sappada stage finishes, the FDJ man has slowly ridden his way into form here. With his GC captain losing a bucket load of time in the TT and complaining of felling unwell, he might be allowed the freedom to chase his own result here. In fact, he was one of the riders who made one of the many breakaways today so his legs must be feeling good. In the right breakaway, he has a big chance of taking a career-changing win.

Niklas Eg.

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My proper wild card of the list as he is only in his first Grand Tour and in his neo-pro year but boy is he talented. Last year he finished 4th on GC at the baby Giro and then followed that up with a 3rd place at the Tour de l’Avenir, clearly he can climb well. In the opening part of the season he impressed many with a 7th place finish on Jabel Hafeet, but it was his performance in Croatia that really stood out. On the toughest mountain finish he set a very strong pace at the front of the bunch, slowly whittling it down for his team leader. But when the attacks came, Brambilla didn’t have anything left to follow and ultimately Eg finished almost a minute ahead of him. Who knows what could have been if he was allowed to go for his own result. Tomorrow’s finish ascent looks great for the slight climber, can he announce himself on the big stage?

Jan Polanc.

With UAE determined to get a stage win at some point, I would be very surprised not to see a few of them in the breakaway tomorrow. Polanc seems to save the best of himself for the Giro but he’s not had the chance to shine brightly on any stages so far. Both of his World Tour wins have come at this race and they’ve both been mountain top finishes. With only one climb to deal with tomorrow he should do well as he seems to get worn down when there are multiple climbs littered throughout the route – he’ll certainly be hoping for better legs than when he was on the attack on Stage 8. Will UAE be rewarded for their aggression the past few days?

Prediction

The break to finally stick and we’ll see the strongest climber take the win, step up Sebastien Reichenbach.

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Although we’ll no doubt see some GC team set it up for their rider only for them to finish in 9th and Yates take another stage…

Betting

0.7pt WIN Reichenbach @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Polanc @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Hirt @ 100/1

0.3pt WIN Eg @ 300/1

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

Those were my Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 14 Preview; San Vito al Tagliamento -> Monte Zoncolan

Today’s Recap

Sprint day, despite Coledan’s best efforts in the closing kilometre.

Viviani showed everyone that one bad day doesn’t mean a bad race, as he romped home for the win.

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Bennett came home second, with Van Poppel in third.

Everyone’s attention has changed focus quickly though as one of the most iconic finishes in cycling awaits tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The day that everyone has been waiting for both in the peloton and the watching public. Will the stage live up to expectations? With the finishing climb that we have, I think it will be hard for the finale not to be dramatic anyway!

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As for the rest of the stage, we’ll have to wait and see though as I’m not too sure we’ll see any GC movement before the Zoncolan, but I hope I’m wrong.

The day starts out easy with a long section of almost flat roads for 40km which will no doubt bear witness to a big fight to get in the break, everyone wants to be up ahead on the famous finish. It is possible that the break won’t have gone before the first categorised climb of the day, the Monte di Ragogna. A mini-Zoncolan, it will whet the appetite for what is to come with its 10.3% average gradient over 2.75km. Avaglio is similar with a long section above 13% but it has the easier average.

However, both of these climbs too far out for any action and even the Cat-2 Passo Duron (9.7% for 4.4km) might see a lot of eye-balling.

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If a team decides to put the pressure on though then we could see some domestiques out the back early on.

The likelihood is that we won’t see any serious pressure applied until the penultimate climb of the day.

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Unfortunately for anyone hoping to make an early attack here, Sella Valcalda is the easiest climb of the day and it be hard to distance any GC favourites. The only chance for a surprise move to go is on the steeper slopes between 4 and 5.5km on the graphic above where the gradient averages roughly 9%.

Once over the top a fast descent follows before a short dip into the valley and on to one of cycling’s most mythical climbs – Monte Zoncolan.

stage-14-zoncolan

Words don’t do it justice and I’m not going to bother to try to ramble on about it. Just look at those gradients. Team-mates will be of very little use here and it will me mano o mano between the GC contenders.

Zoncolan Time Gaps

What can we expect from the GC favourites here? How much time will they take/lose compared to each other?

The last time Zoncolan was used was back in 2014 but it was the penultimate stage of the race and with Quintana in a commanding GC lead the race was all but over. Therefore we didn’t see too many time gaps, with Quintana/Uran gaining 15 seconds on Rolland/Pozzovivo/Majka/Aru.

However, back in 2011 it was featured as the summit finish on stage 13 and we saw much bigger gaps between the favourites. Eventual stage winner Igor Anton took 2’24 out of 10th place finisher Joaquim Rodriguez.

I think we’ll see something similar to that tomorrow.

Just to show how hard the climb is, the break that day (Tankink, Rabottini and Brambilla) had a 4’30 gap with 10km to go: they finished 5’54, 6’43 and 11’24 respectively. If we do see a break stick all the way tomorrow, it will need to be made up of strong climbers and they will need 3 minutes at the bottom to have a chance. Speaking of which…

Break or GC win?

The daily conundrum for a stage at the Giro but this year has been weird as we have yet to see the break hold out for the whole day. Recent history is on the side of the breakaway when in 2014 Rogers held on from the morning move. However, slightly less recent history, i.e. every other time we’ve raced up Zoncolan, the winner has been a GC contender. Interestingly, in 2003 (Simon) and 2010 (Basso) the rider who crossed the line first on the famous slope went on to take the win overall and on the other two occasions the eventual Maglia Rosa came home 4th (Di Luca in 2007) and 2nd (Contador in 2011).

In an almost spooky coincidence, the votes on my Twitter poll are nearly a carbon copy of what the previous stats would suggest.

I’m still really on the fence, it just depends as to whom makes the move and who wants to chase behind. Given how strong Yates has looked, do the other teams help chase all day potentially gifting him 10 bonus seconds, or do they instead just sit in and let Mitchelton use up their resources? That strategy would certainly be helpful with a tricky stage to come on Sunday.

Hmmm, in the spirit of trying to defy the odds, I’ll go with the breakaway and a few riders who probably aren’t at the top of everyone’s list.

TheBreakawayLottery

Ben Hermans.

The Belgian made a big money move over the winter to join Israel Cycling Academy from BMC but it has not been an ideal year for him so far with no real results to his name. Before the race he was a potential outside contender for a top 10 spot on GC but he set his sights on losing time to chase stages. So far he has been on the attack on Etna, where he finished second best of the morning break (behind Chaves), coming home in 11th on the day. He was also part of the doomed early move on stage 10 that was rather ironically pulled back because of Chaves’ implosion. He seems to be hand-picking his stages and given his post on Instagram the other day, I think he’s looking forward to go on the attack tomorrow.

Jan Hirt.

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I raved about Astana’s super strong team before this race but they’ve been a little disappointing so far, especially Lopez who seems a bit off the pace at the moment. We could of course see it all be turned around tomorrow, but I think they will be focussing on chasing stage wins from the break and seeing what happens behind. Hirt has done a lot of work for his team-mates so far but once his job is over, he’s tried to conserve as much energy as possible. On the occasions that we’ve seen him pull on the front he has started to shred the peloton, so he must be in reasonably good shape. A climber who likes the steep slopes, none come steeper than the Zoncolan.

Wout Poels.

A bit of a wild card here but Sky tried to sneak Poels into one of the breaks the other day and I think they might take the same approach tomorrow. Poels, and Sky for that matter, haven’t been as strong as in previous Grand Tours but they could be saving it for one last push in the second half of the race. Poels climbed well here in 2014, riding strongly in support of Uran. He is reasonably close on GC to potentially worry Mitchelton, so they might not let the move get too far ahead, but if he starts the climb with 2 minutes, there is every chance he holds on.

Joe Dombrowski.

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We’re nearly into week three and we’re in a Grand Tour so there’s one man I’ll be backing on numerous occasions over the next few days. Dombrowski seems to be one of the riders who gets better and better as the race goes on, give him a 6 week GT and he might just win it. The American is an incredibly talented rider who naturally has a big engine, he’s just never been able to fully utilise it. So far in this race he has been quiet on the attacking front, working his way into form for the mountains. Instead, you will have been able to find him pulling on the front with fellow, well-known rouleur Hugh Carthy. An appearance at Duo Normand later in the season is on the cards for them I reckon! Could this be the race Dombrowski finally delivers on his talent?

GC Battle

It really is hard to say what will happen with the GC guys, they’ve not had to face a climb this tough yet. Going on what we have seen though, it looks as if Yates, Dumoulin, Pinot and Pozzovivo are the strongest.

Yates – Should enjoy the gradients of the climb but has he peaked too early? A big test for him but if he’s still on great form, he will want to take as much time out of everyone as possible.

Dumoulin – Slowly but surely riding his way into form and this will concern everyone else involved. The steep gradients tomorrow aren’t ideal for the Sunweb rider, but given it is consistently steep, he should be able to get into a rhythm and grind his way up.

Pinot – Has looked lively but has been outsprinted to the line on a few occasions. Was strong in the Alps, and now we’re onto a proper mountain he will want to show his resolve.

Pozzovivo – Another who has looked lively but he seems to lack the punch to distance everyone. When he has put a sustained attack in it has distanced a lot of people, see the finish to Gran Sassolo. Can he do the same tomorrow?

Everyone else hasn’t really shown an awful lot but we could see a few surprises, this is the Giro after all. Lots have suggested they’re trying to peak for this weekend and the whole of next week. Who’s timed it right?

Prediction

The remnants of the breakaway to hold on, just, and I’ll go with Ben Hermans to take the win.

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Sooo, it’s probably going to be a GC day now!

Betting

Worth throwing a few darts then looking in-play during the stage.

0.5pt WIN on the breakers;

Hirt 50/1, Dombrowski 66/1, Poels and Hermans at 80/1.

B365 prices.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Preview – The BFOG

Vuelta a España 2017 Preview – The BFOG

In a slight change-up to previous races where I’ve rolled out separate previews for the various jerseys, this year I’m going to include GC/Sprint/KOM all in one, in a Giro Rosa style BFOG.

Last year’s Vuelta saw some very aggressive racing with Quintana beating Froome by 1’23, with Chaves finishing in 3rd.

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Most of the time Quintana had over Froome was gained on a crazy stage 15 and I hope we see some similar tactics deployed this year.

I’ll be disappointed if my favourite Grand Tour of the year is a let down.

Over the coming three weeks expect some bold tactics, super steep finishes, messy sprints, random breakaway days and some surprising results!

The Route – What You Need To Know

To some it up in a word: tough.

Again, as I’ll be doing daily stage previews then I won’t be going over the route in massive detail here, just the key stages. Although this is the Vuelta, so any stage can almost become a key stage…

The opening day sees a TTT around Nîmes (yes, we start in France) which should set the GC order for the following few days. Thankfully, at only 13km long, the time gaps between the overall contenders shouldn’t be too big at the end of the day.

It is not long before we’ll get a rough idea of who has some early climbing form as Stage 3 features two Cat-1 climbs and a Cat-2 all within 158km. With a slightly technical downhill run I don’t expect to see any of the GC favourites try to attack 100%, maybe an aggressive top 20 candidate can escape to take the spoils?

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Stage 5 offers us our first hill-top finish with the Cat-3 climb of Ermita Santa Lucía. It doesn’t sound much, but remember that this is a SPANISH Cat-3 climb; 3.7km at 8.58% with max gradients of around 15-20%. It’s a shame Reijnen isn’t here so he can get Spained…

We then have a couple of rolling days that give the sprinters or opportunists a chance at stage glory.

The weekend before the first rest day sees two stages that both have Cat-1 climbs in the closing 10kms of the race.

Stage 8 will have riders summit the brutally steep Alto Xorret de Catí. Officially 5kms at 9%, the crux of the climb is more 4km at 11%! From there, they will then face a short but steep descent into town for the finish.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-9-cumbre-del-sol-1484252526Stage 9 finishes atop the Alto de Puig Llorença which is another short but steep climb, averaging 8.8% for 4.1km. It certainly seems the organisers designed a route hoping that Valverde would be here! With a rest-day to come, expect the GC contenders to be full gas here and we could see some surprising time gaps.

After the rest day we should see a break survive on Stage 10, but the following day is the most challenging one so far with back-to-back Cat-1 climbs.

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Climbing or descending from pretty much 60km out, this could be a fairly brutal day in the saddle. With the finish above 2000m, we might see a GC favourite suffer from the altitude. One thing is for sure, this Vuelta isn’t a race you can ease yourself into for week 3!

Another couple of “who knows what these stages could turn into” days follow, before we get out first Especial finish of the race on Stage 14.

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Once again the riders are pretty much climbing for the last 25km of the race with the Cat-1 before the Esp finish. However, the two can be combined to form the climb below.

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It’s not a crazy average gradient at only 5.3%, but the 23km could see some weary legs by the top. Not great then when the toughest 3kms come within the final 5km! Someone could go pop. With a “flat” finish though, a small 5 rider sprint could be likely.

Either way, it will certainly stretch the riders legs for what is to come the following day.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-15-sierra-nevada-alto-hoya-1484252566

This is the type of Vuelta stage I love as a spectator. Pretty sure the riders might not think the same. Pure madness!

It finishes with a Cat-1 then Especial climb, but like a few of the stages here, they can be pretty much rolled into one.

VueltaS15 finish

Ouch. Ouch indeed!

With the last rest-day to follow, expect the riders to leave everything out on the road.

After their day to recuperate and recover, the riders will be faced with a decisive 40km TT. It does climb and roll a little bit but it is certainly an effort that should suit a specialist. This stage will scare a lot of the pure climbers who will be gunning for a good GC position.

The GC days continue to come as Stage 17 finishes atop the now viral Alto de los Machucos.

Who knows what the GC composition will look like before the stage, and who knows what it will look like after! Those who lost time on the TT the day before hand will certainly be hoping to bounce back with a good performance.

Stage 18 finishes on one of those classic Vuelta Cat-3s; 2.3km at 8.3%. I wouldn’t expect any major splits between the GC guys but you just never know…It could be a day for the break, likewise is stage 19. Although a few teams might control it and hope for a sprint.

The last huzzah GC wise comes on Stage 20 where the riders will finish atop the mythical Angliru.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-20-alto-de-l-angliru-1484252595

Four categorised climbs in a 119km stage, including the three major ones in the last 50km. A very Vuelta-y stage to finish the Vuelta GC battle with!

Any sprinters that we have left will then fight it out for stage honours in Madrid on the final day. Although considering we don’t have many here already, could a late attack succeed?

GC Contenders and Pretenders

With the defending champion Quintana finally deciding to have a Grand Tour off after doing 4 in a row, we could well see a new winner this September. I’ll have a look at some of the contenders and outsiders for the title below, some in much more depth than others!

Chris Froome.

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This years Tour winner is gunning for a famous Tour/Vuelta double. He has tried to pull off the feat in the past but this year could be his best shot, given the 40km worth of individual time trialing. Starting as the bookies favourite, his form is massively unknown going into this race. In fact, he hasn’t made an appearance at any UCI event since the end of the Tour, instead, opting to earn a couple of extra quid with some post Tour crits. Not ideal preparation in my opinion for a race where you need to be on good form in the first week!

One of the things he does have going for him though is that he won the Tour not looking his best. In previous editions he has cruised the Tour but never had just enough left to win the Vuelta, so maybe that was in the back of his mind going into that race. Or is he on the decline in general? I thought the latter before the Tour, but I’m not so sure now. His team is strong, not as good as his TDF hit squad, but bloody close to it! He is still the rider to beat once the dust has settled.

Vincenzo Nibali.

Arguably Froome’s biggest contender for the crown, the Italian is a much more rounded Grand Tour rider than the Brit, showing consistency across all three of the races. I mean he has won them all! He finished third at this years Giro, a result I’m sure he’ll be disappointed with but it wasn’t a bad performance and he did beat some good riders. Traditionally, Nibali doesn’t show much form before a Grand Tour but that seems to have changed this season. A solid 9th place in Poland, where he looked fairly skinny, was good for him and he will no doubt be gunning for no less than the win here. The only issue is that his team is fairly weak, with the missing Izagirre a big blow. I can’t see him winning the race, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does in the end.

Alberto Contador.

I said at the Tour last year he was past his best and his performance this year highlighted that even more. I’m sure he’ll go on a few hail mary attacks which could see him move up the standings. Will it be enough for a podium? Probably not. But a stage win and a top 10 is very much achievable.

Fabio Aru.

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Another rider who comes straight here with no other racing in his legs after La Grand Boucle. A former winner of this race, as more of a pure climber some of the very tough stages should suit him well. However, the long 40km TT could be his downfall in his overall title bid. I have no idea where his form is at, considering he was apparently struggling with bronchitis at the end of the Tour. He could be great, or he could be awful! Being near the top on GC is helpful, especially when Astana have another potential GC card to play…

Miguel Angel Lopez.

My outsider/dark-horse/whatever you want to call it for the podium and possibly even more. Which now inevitably means he is going to fall by the wayside after picking up an illness on stage 4.

The young Colombian is a super talented, all-round GC star of the future. He can climb very well, but he is also a deceptively good TTer for someone of his stature. It is a tough ask to see him compete at the pointy end of the race in what will be the first Grand Tour that he should hopefully complete. Nonetheless, I think he has the pedigree to do just so. Having been raced lightly this year after spending the first 6 months of the season sidelined due to injury, he should have plenty of juice left in the tank to go well here. He warmed up with a good showing in Burgos recently, winning the final stage. Coping well with the heat there is a promising sign for what will no doubt be a scorching Vuelta. Can Superman fly?!

Ilnur Zakarin.

After Froome, the Russian is arguably the best TT rider of the GC contenders here. He’s an attacking rider and in a race that is known for its crazy moments, he might just prosper. I’m still not 100% sold on his ability to climb with the best, especially at altitude but you just never know. He’ll be hoping for at least a top 5!

Yates / Yates / Chaves.

Thought I’d just combine Orica’s three-pronged attack into one here! Out of the Yates brothers, I imagine it would be Adam who will be going for the higher GC placing, but that doesn’t mean Simon can be discounted completely. However, Chaves should be their main charge. The only issue with that is the Colombian has struggled with injuries this season and took a big knock to his mental confidence after one of his friends tragically died back in Colombia while he was riding at the Tour. I’m sure his form will be a lot better at the Vuelta as that was the plan during the Tour anyway, to get up to race speed for this event. If he is firing on all cylinders, he could be a danger. The only issue for all three of them is the massive 40km of TT, it is by far their worst discipline and they could all lose bucketloads of time. Which should make for an exciting few mountain stages if they have to chase the race…

I feel like I have already named a load of riders but the list of quality top 10 contenders could continue for a while yet! Other guys we have here include but not limited to; Bardet, Jungels, Kruijswijk, Poels, Pozzovivo, Majka and Kelderman.

Prediction

Froome is the guy to beat but Sky are never as convincing at the Vuelta compared to their dominance at the Tour and there is a chance the Brit could be isolated on a few occasions. We saw in France that he didn’t seem to be at his best and he can’t chase everyone down when it is just the group of GC favourites. If Froome is to win, he needs a massive race from Poels.

I just can’t help shake the feeling that some of the teams will look to isolate him at some point, like the famous Stage 15 from last year. Will they succeed?

 

Hmmm, I don’t know. Surely Sky will be more alert this year…

Froome probably wins the race but you’ll read that a lot this week so I’ll go for young pretender turned young contender Miguel Angel Lopez to pull off a shock result!

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I’m really looking forward to the double act with Aru over the coming weeks.

Watch out for the Shark though, he’s lurking ready to strike.

King of the Mountains

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Unlike the Tour, the Vuelta’s KOM competition is much more traditional in the sense that climbs at the start of the stage are weighted equally compared to those at the end. None of this final climb double points nonsense!

Given the amount of summit finishes at the Vuelta you would think that a GC rider has a good chance of taking the jersey. However, there are bound to be several breakaway days during the race which makes it difficult for someone high up on the overall to challenge. In fact, you have to go back to 2007 when a proper GC guy won the jersey.

Omar Fraile has won the jersey the past two years; can he make it three in a row?

As for points distribution, it is as follows:

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Thanks to Velorooms/@Searchhhh for whom I tea leafed the table from.

Overall, there are 315 mountain points available, with 91 of those coming at the end of stages. You can therefore see how it is tough for the GC favourites to compete.

However, unlike recent years, there are no nailed on breakaway days that garner a lot of points. Instead, we have 6 stages where there are between 15-25 points available during the stage, not including the finish climb, and they are Stages 3/5/12/17/19/20.

You would expect the break to take the majority, if not all of the points on those days. However, there are a few mountain top finishes where the break could stay away until the end as well.

Stage 14 is an example of that where we finish with an Especial climb, meaning that a rider could potentially take 28 points if they win the stage.

The following days action is similar too if the break manages to stay away and take the stage/Cima Alberto Fernández, totalling 40 points if they can do that.

How will the KOM race pan out?

It is tough to name a favourite for a competition such as this given the huge amount of variables. At the Tour, Barguil lost a lot of time in some of the early stages so that he was given the freedom to hunt KOM points later in the race. Whether that was intentional or not, I’m not too sure. Equally, Landa turned to the KOM jersey once he was out of GC contention at the Giro.

However, the difference between those two races and the Vuelta is that a lot of the KOM points were back loaded towards the end of the Grand Tour. Here, they’re much more evenly spread out.

In fact, on stage 3 (25pts) and stage 5 (21 pts) a rider can put their name into the mix with a strong early lead in the competition. If you look at the past couple of seasons the highest winning points total has been 82 by Fraile in 2016.

Therefore, a rider could take 43 points (not including the Cat-3 summit finish on stage 5) and be in a very commanding position at the end of the first week. I wonder if we’ll see some riders roll home at the back of the pack on Stage 2 to get some freedom the next day….

A poor TTT could set things up nicely to allow a rider the freedom to go into those moves. It’s also important to consider that the Pro-Conti teams will be gagging to get away in breaks for TV exposure, so a rider from their roster could be the one to take up the charge.

So with all that said, I’m going to suggest three names who might be there or thereabouts in the competition. Or probably not…

Merhawi Kudus.

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I’m a big fan of the talented Eritrean rider, he’s really taken a step up this season in terms of performance. A traditional mountain goat, he should be able to cope with a lot of the steep ramps and rises that the Vuelta has to offer. Now, Fraile is the most likely candidate on the Dimension Data squad to chase the KOM jersey, but there is a chance that the Spaniard might want to go for stage wins and leave the KOM hunting to someone else in the team; Kudus might be that man.

Jetse Bol (2.0).

The new and improved climbing Jetse Bol has found his passion for racing again with Colombian Wild Card team Manzana Postobon. They are guaranteed to lose a lot of time on the opening day TTT and will no doubt be chasing the breaks from therein. Given his sublime performance at the recent Vuelta Burgos, Bol seems to be in rather good shape at the moment. A jersey win for the Pro-Conti team would be incredible and the Dutchman might just be the guy to deliver it for them.

Larry Warbasse.

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There would be something poetic about Captain America taking the KOM jersey at the Vuelta. It was at this race last year that Warbasse gained a lot of my respect, so much so that I think he was the most heavily featured rider in my previews! He couldn’t manage a breakaway win but impressed enough to gain a contract with Aqua Blue for this season. I think it is fair to say he has delivered for them, taking their first ever win. Not bad considering it was at WorldTour level! Another team who are bound to be on the attack throughout the race Warbasse is their best climber and I would be surprised not to see them go for the jersey; they’ve done so in a lot of smaller races throughout the season so why not here too.

You know what, Warbasse is my KOM winner for this race!

Points Classification

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Much like the KOM jersey, the Vuelta keeps things simple for the points classification and does away with the hassle of stage categorisations etc. Instead, riders will be given the same points for winning one of the sprint stages or the mountain top finish up the Angliru.

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Again, the table is tea leafed from the same sources as above!

Therefore, it is very rare that a sprinter wins this jersey. It will be even harder this year given the parcours and the lack of proper sprint stages. Consequently, it will be a rider who can compete on multiple types of finishes that will win the jersey.

Valverde has dominated this competition and it is clear to see why. Packing a fast sprint, he can pick up a few points on the flatter stages but his climbing ability allows him to challenge for stage wins on the tougher days.

We could see a GC winner take the crown by being consistent on all of the mountain top finishes but I think we might see a few breakaways deny them the opportunity of competing for points.

Unlike the KOM competition, I only have one rider in mind for this competition.

A guy who is very much built-in the ilk of Valverde, albeit he is not as good a GC rider. Yet.

Julian-Alaphilippe-time-trial

There are several stage finishes that seem to suit the explosive French climber down to the ground. He’s had to miss both the Ardennes and the Tour for various reasons which would have been a massive disappointment for him. Nonetheless, I’m sure that means he’ll turn up here ready to perform well. On his return to racing in Burgos he was good, not great, more promising than anything else. With the cobwebs blown out now, I think he’s in for a big race. If he is performing to his Paris Nice level, then the Points jersey is his to lose!

Vuelta Picks

After continuing on from initial success, we had the highest numbers ever play the Tour Picks game back in July and I’m hoping to entice you to join Vuelta Picks for this coming month.

The premise of the game is simple; pick a separate rider for every stage, with their position on the day counting as your points. With the lowest cumulative score at the end of the Vuelta winning the prize pool.

However, one bad day does not mean that you’re completely out of it, with a prize on offer for the most stage wins too. In fact, at the Tour there were enough participants to introduce a KOM prize (lowest accumulated score over certain stages).

It’s also a good way for you to laugh at my awful, or terribly unfortunate picks. Picking an ill Sam Bennett on stage 2 of the Giro didn’t really go well for me…

I’ll also be adding a little segment at the end of each day’s blog section to cover; a “safe” pick, a risky pick (wongshot) and a deliberate Lanterne Rouge pick. Just to add a bit of spice to the game!

Think you can beat me and take my money?!

*Hint – the answer is probably yes*

Then follow the Cycling Picks Twitter handle @cycling_picks and simply put your name into the spreadsheet if you wish to play!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14U89El-B7h05tRgB5Lw8ml9pkF5v0ROvxH96-dk3w7o/edit#gid=0

Spreadsheet above^^^

Betting

Not a fan of betting ante-post on GC riders normally, but I’ll gladly back Lopez as an EW bet for this race.

Outright – 2pts Lopez EW @ 25/1 with Lads/Coral. (would take 20/1 lowest)

As for the KOM competition, I’m spraying some small stakes around on the riders I’ve mentioned above. Nothing too crazy.

0.75pt EW Warbasse @ 50/1 with various (Wouldn’t take any lower)

0.5pt EW Kudus @ 150/1 with Betfred (would take 100/1 lowest)

0.25pt EW Bol @ 300/1 with Betfred (would take 250/1 lowest)

As for the Points jersey, it’s simple.

2.5pts WIN Alaphilippe @ 6/1 with Lads/Coral.

I think I’ll leave it at that for the pre-race bets.

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the various competitions? I hope we’re in for an exciting 3 weeks of racing and I’m optimistic that we will be! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Wieliczka -> Zakopane

Today’s Recap

A shorter stage that delivered a few surprises.

We had a strong break of 5 get up the road early on in the day but they were never given more than 3 minutes, with a few teams helping Bora control the gap. There were some splits on the early climbs, but nothing too major.

However, the pace was really increased on the last climb of the day and the peloton was reduced to around 50 guys, with breakee Van Garderen still up the road. The American was ultimately brought to heel with about 3km to go. A crash just before the Flamme Rouge saw only 12 or so riders contest the sprint with Van Poppel finally getting his reward for strong performances all week.

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Mezgec ran him very close in second, while Sagan gained some more bonus seconds in third place.

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

The Route

Arguably the Queen Stage of the race with just over 4000m of elevation gain according to Strava/Veloviewer.

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I think this is the first stage that the Veloviewer profile undersells the day, whereas the official profile is actually pretty bang on.

TDPS6

You can view the full profile here.

The first 100km of the day start off relatively innocuously, with only a few small rises and nother too serious. The action kicks off though with an uncategorised rise of 3% for 3km; a nice way for the riders to warm up and stretch their legs for the remainder of the stage.

Bystryk is the opening categorised climb.

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At 5.6% for 5.9km it certainly is not Alpine, but this is where we could see the sprinters un-hitch and pack in the race altogether.

The riders won’t get much respite as after a few kilometres of false flat and descending, they’ll face the second categorised climb of the day; Butorowy Wierch.

TDPS6KOM2

Any speed the riders carry into the climb will be knocked off by the very steep ramps that come right at the bottom. From there, it will be a drag to the top with some light relief on some flatter sections.

The categorised climbs are put on the back-burner for the intermediate sprint point, although that cruelly is located on top of a 3.3km (3.9%) drag itself.

Next on the climbing menu is Głodówka which tops out with 48km left.

TDPS6KOM3

One of the easier climbs of the day, it shouldn’t be of any major difficulties for the riders and I can’t imagine anyone who’s not dropped already, will be dropped here.

The road then plunges down the valley before some more uncategorised climbing that is actually pretty tricky. According to Veloviewer the climb is 4.4km long and averages 5.1%; making it tougher than our previous Cat 1! I guess they had to give the highest point on the stage a mountain category. From there the riders will face a really short descent before the second bump which is 1.4km at 7%. A sting in the tail if you’re not prepared for it!

A 5km descent follows before the riders start the final 22kms of the day, and arguably the most crucial as they face two-categorised climbs in quick succession with very little downhill in between.

The riders actually climb to Bystryk again for the penultimate KOM, but from a slightly different route.

TDPS6KOM4

It’s a steady climb, well, aside from the two sections of very steep gradients!

The climb of Butorowy Wierch is then the same as it is on the image above. With it cresting 8.5km from the finish, will we see a rider solo at this time, or will a small group crest together?

Those final 8.5km look as follows…

TDPS6fin

A quick descent and a 2km rise up to the line averaging 2.5%. That small incline could see a riders legs seize up if they put too much in earlier on, although that is unlikely!

How will the stage pan out?

There is a chance the break makes it if none of the GC teams decide to play ball and chase the move. However, I think we’ll see some kind of GC showdown on the roads and a strong winner at the end of the day.

I expect an aggressive race, or at least I hope for one. Sagan has looked imperious so far and if I was a DS of an opposing team, I wouldn’t want to risk taking all the time back from him on the final stage.

Unfortunately for them, Bora also have Majka positioned rather nicely in third place. So if Sagan is dropped, the Pole is more than likely going to be there as a replacement!

Nonethless, I would still be sending/attempting to send my strong riders up the road with around 50km to go, on the 3rd categorised climb of the day. This is where having two riders on the team that are genuine GC threats comes in very handy as the person behind doesn’t have to work while other teams who have missed the move burn matches to try to close it down.

Looking at teams that have two serious candidates we have;

Bora – Sagan (1st) and Majka (’20 seconds down)

Sunweb – Kelderman (24 seconds) and Oomen (1’50)*

Sky – Poels (33s) and Rosa (1’14)

Orica – Yates (33s) and Haig (1’58)*

Movistar – Izagirre (39s) and Oliveira (1’02)

UAE – Costa (42s) and Conti (47s)

Lotto Soudal – De Clerq (44s) and Marczynski (1’05)

*These two are borderline non-threats but could be brought into the mix still.

Will a DS be brave enough to send someone up the road to risk losing their current GC standing? I hope so, this isn’t a Grand Tour so I can’t see teams riding to defend 7th etc. As for who that might be? I’m not too sure!

I’ll give it a go though and name a couple of riders who I fancy to go well and who might be given freedom to do so.

MyTwoPicksWorth™

Valerio Conti.

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After taking a Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta last year, the UAE rider has really taken a step up this season. Constantly attacking throughout the Giro, he was in contention for stage victory from the breakaway on Stage 8 until he crashed going round one of the final hairpins. He looked strong that day on the uphill kick and I’m sure he would have managed to get on the podium at least. On stage 3 he was the first rider to start proceedings on the final climb but unfortunately for him, he was clawed back in. An attacking rider who might not be deemed an instant threat, he will be the UAE guy who I imagine is sent up the road. If he senses stage victory is there, he might just take it…

Gorka Izagirre.

The rider who beat Conti on that stage in the Giro, the “lesser” Izagirre brother has really broken through this season now that Ion has moved on! A loyal domestique, when given the chance to shine he often does. Earlier in the year he produced his best ever GC result when finishing 4th in the overall at Paris-Nice. He’s certainly no mug! Strong on this type of uphill drag to the line, if he arrives with a small group that doesn’t include Sagan, he’ll no doubt fancy his chances in the sprint.

Prediction

We’ll see an attacking, but relatively cagey day rolled into one.

A group of “lesser” GC guys will escape with Majka, while Sagan sticks with those behind. In the sprint to the line, Gorka will continue his impressive year and take the win. The Spaniard was pushing the pace on during the final climb today so he must be feeling sprightly!

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Betting

I don’t know why, but I have a good feeling about Izagirre for tomorrow. Good enough to disregard Conti completely from the equation? It would kill me if he did go on to win so no!

1pt EW on them both with B365;

Conti @ 20/1

Izagirre @ 40/1

Also;

6pts on Izagirre to beat Visconti @ 4/6.

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see some GC attacks from afar, or will it be a relatively dull day? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Villars-les-Dombes -> La Motte-Servolex

Today’s Recap

I have to admit that I didn’t see today’s stage so this section will be brief…

The peloton finally decided to work together to catch the break, although from reading online reports it was in the balance for a while. Nonetheless, everything came down to a large bunch sprint and it was the blog’s pick for stage 3 who came good; Phil Bauhaus. A couple of days late but it’s good to see the young German taking his first (of many?) World Tour win.

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Démare continued his good run of form with a second place, with Coquard rounding out the podium.

The attention now switches to the GC riders and climbers of the peloton as we come to the business end of this race tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A relatively easy day out in the saddle to start off with before the riders have to tackle one of the hardest climbs in France!

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We could see a tough fight to get into the morning break along the flatlands at the start of the stage, or it could go from the gun. It’s one of those days! The first test for the peloton will be the Cat-3 Côte de Corlier but it won’t really have any impact on the stage. The road then rolls a bit, going through the feed-zone before the peloton can stretch their climbing legs/get warmed up again on the Côte de Jongieux. At 3.3km long and averaging 5% it’s not tough. However, considering there are only 5.5km from the summit to the bottom of Mont du Chat, then I expect it to be attacked at a fast pace as the GC riders look to position themselves before the monster of a climb. Speaking of which…

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It starts off with an “easy” kilometre of 7.5%, before never dipping below 9% for the rest of the climb. My legs hurt just looking at the profile!

We have max gradients of 15%, but I think it will be the 6th and 7th kilometres where the damage will be done. For those two kilometres it averages 12% and a lot of time can be made here if you’re stronger than your rivals, before it “eases” back down to 9.5% in the final kilometre of the climb.

Once over the top the riders will plunge down the other side on a descent that starts off quite technical, before getting easier around 2/3rds down the climb. The final few kilometres are almost pan flat as we head into the finish town.

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Will this scupper the chances of a solo rider taking the win?

If we do get a small group arriving together at the finish, taking the quicker inside line will be important!

How will the race pan out?

There is a chance the breakaway wins, but I think that’s unlikely considering the GC teams will be fighting for position a lot during the day. Furthermore, with bonus seconds on the line, they will want to give themselves as big a chance as possible of beating Porte in the overall.

Therefore, we’ll see a big GC battle on Mont du Chat with all the favourites coming to the fore!

Contenders

Valverde – On a stage with a descent almost all the way to the finish line but with a flat final 2km, the imperious Spaniard probably has to start as favourite. If he can hold onto the better climbers, he could potentially drop them on the descent or at least out-sprint them at the finish. Saying that, the way Valverde has been climbing this year, it would not surprise me to see him attack everyone on the climb. A strong TT is an indication that he is still in very good form just now!

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Contador – Similar to Valverde, El Pistolero delivered a better than expected TT which highlights that he is going well despite saying that he isn’t too bothered about how he does at the Dauphiné. It’s almost guaranteed that he will attack on the climb, but will it be enough for him to get away? If not, he’ll have to play it cannily as they approach the line as he doesn’t have the best sprint…

Froome – Relatively disappointing in the TT, the Brit has had a “poor” season by his standards so far. Maybe he didn’t want to give it his all in the TT, bluff a bit and not take any risks? But on a course that wasn’t too technical, I think that the power just wasn’t there. I could be wrong though and he could well turn it around. I think he doesn’t care for this race too much and it’s all about the Tour for him!

Porte – GC rider of the season, he blitzed everyone on a relatively flat TT so for him, the power is clearly there. Ridiculously impressive on short 15 minute climbs, I’m intrigued to see if he can sustain the Watts per Kg for a longer effort. He managed that in Paris-Nice and with the way he is riding just now, I can see him doing it again.

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@ammattipyoraily

Obviously those who struggled in the TT might have a chance of stage glory due to being further down on GC and not an immediate threat.

Bardet – A demon descender the Frenchman will not hold anything back on the downhill sections. He’s also not afraid to attack on the uphill and I think we’ll see him try to go early.

Martin, Yates and Aru could also find themself in a similar position!

Prediction

Originally I thought this stage would be great for someone like Bardet. My mind then switched to Valverde. But the more I think about it, the more I think we’ll see Porte ride away from everyone on Mont du Chat and cement his winning position in this race. He has been truly incredible this season, his power output has been amazing. He just needs to stay upright on the descent because I think we could see him crest the summit of the climb with a 30 second advantage.

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Betting

2pts WIN Porte @ 11/2 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will a “lesser” GC rider manage to escape or will it be ont of the leading contenders? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.